Live: The Octopus Project/Diagonals/Electric Attitude

The Octopus Project pic #4
The Octopus Project. Photo by Aubrey Edwards.

WAREHOUSE LIVE -- 8/29/08: Often I find myself bemoaning the number of bands skipping Houston on tours, and with a recent history of poor show turn-outs and the Two Gallants incident weighted against the city, I know this unfortunate trend isn't likely to change overnight. Even bands from our neighboring Austin seem to be giving us the cold shoulder from time to time, making me all the more grateful for a band like The Octopus Project, who in the last three years I have now seen four times right here in Houston.
As SCR mentioned when blogging about the band, the Octopus Project is moving up in the music world; playing not only larger venues but major festivals as well (such as Lollapalooza in early August and Austin City Limits this weekend). But no matter how successful they become, I firmly believe the Austin band will continue to visit our fair city with relative frequency, and this confidence is not simply based on the band's family ties here. I think the warm way in which they're received by large crowds at their annual Houston shows also plays a significant role in drawing the Octopus Project back to Houston. And, in turn, the band always puts on an electrifying and fun show, this show being no exception to this rule.
Leading the musical charge were locals Electric Attitude, known formerly as Bayou City Beach Party. The band warmed up the show's early-birds with a short set of energetic rock songs in which Blake Shepard's nasally (in a good way) howl and guitarist Jordan Bell's lead lines seemed the intended focal points. The band's true attention-grabbing quality, however, was Kwesi Sackey's wah-saturated bass, which added an interesting funk vibe to Electric Attitude's songs, snatched the spotlight from Shepard on a solo during "Robot Girl," and saved the band from mediocrity. And as any band with even a hint of funkiness should do, they dedicated the last song of their set to the late Isaac Hayes.
For an August tour of the west coast, the Octopus Project chose fellow Austin dwellers Diagonals to accompany them, and after a handful of dates apart the two bands were reunited for the Octo's Warehouse Live show and one in Fort Worth the night before. The five-piece Diagonals were quick to win the crowd over with their brand of reverb-drenched, organ-heavy garage-rock, inspiring dancing and even a small mosh pit. According to frontman Steve Garcia -- who remarked that the historic mosh was "pretty sweet" -- this was a first at a Diagonals show. And the more the crowd warmed up to the band, the more the band seemed to come alive, playing their songs about supermodels and overweight elementary school girls in space with increasing fervor, especially left-handed drummer Todd Larson. I can now only hope they follow the example of their tourmates and stop by more often.
Capitalizing on the good vibes created by Diagonals' set, the Octopus Project hit the ground running, opening with One Ten Hundred Thousand Millions "Exit Counselor" and maintaining the song's boisterous intensity throughout the rest of their show. The band devoted nearly equal time to each of their three proper LPs, updating older tracks like the hypnotizing, theremin heavy "Rorol" so they sounded natural in close proximity to newer ones like the glitchy hip-shaker "Black Blizzard/Red Umbrella." And Yvonne Lambert was impressive as ever on the theremin, utilizing the curious instrument to sound like a wailing choir of friendly ghosts on "I Saw the Bright Shinies" or an intergalactic space battle above the pulsing bass and mile-a-minute drum machines of "Music is Happiness."
Diagonals pic #1
Diagonals. Photo by Tara Tomorrow.

Beats are a large part of what make the Octopus Project so captivating, and when they weren't coming from a drum machine they were being banged out on a drum set by multi-instrumentalist Toto Miranda, who played Hello, Avalanche cuts "Truck" and "An Evening with Rthrtha" faster than their already-accelerated speeds on the album and did so with laser precision. Likewise, Ryan Figg's guitar-work on "Tuxedo Hat" was more noisy and fractured than its album counterpart, and both Figg and Josh Lambert played their guitars with remarkable enthusiasm, Lambert throwing his body around with abandon during the hammering distortion parts of the band's encore selection, "Porno Disaster."
All in all, this year's Octopus visit was a good one. A great one, even, as the band was all smiles throughout their set, along with the crowd, who showered the group with the kind of constant cheering and love declarations you'd expect more from tween-age girls at a Jonas Brothers' concert than from a bunch of hipsters watching a mostly instrumental, noisy electro-pop band. And the love was well deserved. One of the coolest moments of any Octopus Project show I've been to occurred during Identification Parade standout "The Way Things Go." Before the start of the song, the folks in Diagonals were invited on stage to take part in a "running-in-place" contest along with the band and the audience. Rather than only participating in this competition for a few minutes of the song, the crowd kept right up the band, those nearest the stage eventually climbing onto it, hugging members of both bands after the song had finished. As people began making their way off-stage, Josh Lambert said of the competition's results, "I think everybody wins." Four words that could really be used to sum up the entire evening. END